It all starts when Alasdair is on the train from Glasgow to Mallaig en route for Skye, the birthplace of the father he scarcely remembers. On board he encounters two men, each chilling in his own way, who leave the train in dramatic fashion and Alasdair with a crumpled note saying ‘Hunt at the Hill of the Red Fox MI5’. Allan Campbell McLean’s classic thriller is as exciting today as it was sixty odd years ago when it was first published. The Hill of the Red Fox is one of the very few class books I remember fondly from primary school and I recommend it often to children looking for a complex and engrossing adventure story.
Paul Dowswell came to widespread attention with the publication of Auslander, a stunning book set in Germany during the Second World War. I’ve been reading him ever since and loving his writing. I almost chose Sektion 20 for this list. It also tells a historical story from a non-British point of view and is fascinating. However, on to what I did choose! Eleven Eleven is set on the last day of the First World War and tells of the meeting of two soldiers and an airman, one British, one German and one American. How they come to meet and what happens to them in the few hours on either side of 11am make for compelling reading. With every turn of the page readers will hold their breath, expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Can the three survive until the Armistice? Paul (in other books as well as this one) deals with war head on, leaving his readers in no doubt of its complexities and horrors.